During World War II, many Canadian pilots were “on loan” to Britain and flew for the Royal Air Force (RAF). I was eventually stationed in Madras, India and spent some time on the Nicobar Islands where we were tasked as the anti-Japanese early warning crew. I also flew north of Bombay.
We flew the Catalina at that time. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4T034MPcRc) It was a, how shall I describe it, big boat. The number of crew on – board depended on how far the journey was. On a long trip there may have been between 8 – 10 people on board: 3 pilots, a navigator, a nose gunner to begin. There were no landing gear – unlike the Canso. We always joked that the RAF was too cheap to include landing gear.
I remember the first time I went up in the Catalina. It was massive. The wings had a massive 103 foot wing span. You had to move the controls around several times before it would even move – they were slow to react. The boats were not sensitive at all – lumbering things.
Some of missions included:
– a shipping patrol to Coconada
– recco. patrol to search for unusual explosions at sea
– shipping patrol to RedHills
– Anti-sub sweep to Cocos Islands with several VIPs on May 2, 1945
On March 2, 1945, I was on shipping patrol to Koggala. The next day, we did a low level bombing on sumersible target.
My first anti-locust patrol was on March 31, 1945 in Baluchistan. We found the locust alright. The bugs were so thick they entered the carb. in the port engine. That was a bit of a problem as they clogged the engines. You can read the whole story on my blog entitled, “Bug Patrol”.
We were sent to “Carnicobar” (not sure of the spelling) on the coast of Burma – to so some night bombing. We were using at that time, depth chargers.
Leonard Birchall, who had trained me in North Bay, also flew out of Ceylon. Birchall came to be known as the “Savior of Ceylon” as he spotted a Japanese advancement and was able to get word out that they were heading for Ceylon. He was shot down – but able to communicate his message in time. He was held prisoner of war for quite some time. ( View YouTube clip about The Saviour of Ceylon at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3ngDoueaDc) I also sound an article from a newspaper about Birchall. Here is the link: http://sundaytimes.lk/000227/plus6.html
Other than the Birchall Cup, held annually in Kingston, Ontario, Birchall is much better known and celebrated overseas.
Flying Boats. “Only the RAF, you say? Pity.”